The North of Boston region is home to 12 lighthouses. Each of these structures offer wonderful photo opportunities and each has a unique story behind it. This week, we’re featuring Salem’s three lighthouses…
Salem’s Bakers Island has a colorful history leading up to the 47-foot lighthouse we know today. Legend has it that the 55-acre Bakers Island was named after a man who was killed by a falling tree. While there is no evidence that said fatal accident occurred on the island, a man named Baker was killed by falling lumber in Salem in 1640. If legend is to be believed, the island was thus (morbidly) named in his memory. Which, in hindsight, probably wasn’t the best of ideas.
In the late 1700’s, a lighthouse was erected on the island. Call it “the curse of Baker,” but this light station wasn’t terribly effective and there were a number of shipwrecks attributed to the lighthouse. The Salem Marine Society, believing that two lighthouses would be more effective, lobbied to have a second lighthouse built on the island in 1820 and the lighthouse we know today was erected. The two lighhouses were referred to as “Ma and Pa Baker.” In the 1920’s, however, “Ma Baker” (the original lighthouse) was discontinued and torn down.
Meanwhile, Bakers Island had become a posh summer getaway and visitors flocked to the hotel on the island during the summer months…which burned down in 1906 (the “curse of Baker” strikes again!). Even without the large hotel, Bakers Island, with its 55 cottages remains a popular summer destination.
However, as Bakers Island is private property, lighthouse enthusiasts were not allowed to visit the light station until very recently when the Bakers Island Light Station was transferred from the US government to Essex Heritage. With money raised via Kickstarter, Essex Heritage restored the lighthouse and is now inviting the public to access the island and visit the light station via their new landing craft, the Naumkeag. This two-hour trip includes an hour-long tour of the 10-acre light station and ample photo opportunities. You can learn more about visiting Bakers Island Light on Essex Heritage’s website.
Fort Pickering Lighthouse (1871)
50 Winter Island Road | Salem, MA
In the mid-1800’s, $30,000 was allocated for the construction of three lighthouses in the Greater Salem area – Derby Wharf Light Station (Salem), Hospital Point Light Station (Beverly), and the Fort Pickering Lighthouse. These small lighthouses were strategically placed to allow ships to enter Salem Harbor at all times of the day. Today, visitors are welcome to visit Winter Island Lighthouse. Winter Island, with its public beach, campsites, gift shop, picnic and recreation areas, and events, is a popular Salem destination. Compared to the larger Baker’s Island Light, Fort Pickering Light appears rather underwhelming but the beautiful scenery of Salem Harbor and Winter Island make for great backdrops for photos of the light station. Fun fact – for most of it’s “life,” Fort Pickering Light was painted a brown or red color, not the white color we see today.
Derby Wharf Light Station (1871)
Derby Wharf | Salem, MA
A “sister lighthouse,” if you will, to Fort Pickering Light, the Derby Wharf Light Station was one of the three light stations built in the 1870’s to aid merchant ships pulling into Salem Harbor. This uniquely square-shaped station is also, much like Fort Pickering, easily accessible to visitors. Originally lit via an oil lamp, Derby Wharf Light is completely solar-powered today and flashes a red light approximately every six seconds.